Why mental health matters to us all

16th May 2018

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To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Heathcotes’ Managing Director, Brendan Kelly, offers his thoughts on why organisations must attend to everyone’s mental wellbeing – not just the people we work for, but also the people we work with…

“It almost goes without saying that the Heathcotes Group is very supportive of Mental Health Awareness Week – it would be counterintuitive to think otherwise, given the work we do in providing specialist support to people with severe and enduring mental health problems.

However, there is another side to mental health that I consider to be of equal prominence: the mental and emotional wellbeing of our colleagues. It’s no secret that stress-related illness is responsible for a significant amount of sickness absence in the UK, so it’s really encouraging to see that the Mental Health Foundation are focusing on stress during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

Quite aside from the organisational cost of sickness absence, which is immense, I try to focus on the human cost. It’s very difficult to put a value on the happiness of your colleagues, and there’s not really a spreadsheet to help you try, but anyone who has managed people even for a short time, will know very well that happy people do better work. So – if you’re a leader who cares passionately about your organisation, you must apply the same level of care to the people who work in it; if for no other reason than that it’s actually rather nice to be nice to each other.

There are a number of things that we can do to create a culture of caring about each other’s emotional wellbeing in the workplace. We must be open about how we’re feeling, encouraging others to be likewise, and make sure colleagues feel safe to reply with candour to the (usually rhetorical) question – “How are you?” It’s important to foster this openness in an informal, everyday context, but it’s also vital to provide structured opportunities for colleagues to talk about their wellbeing – such as supervision or review meetings – and ensure that out managers are curious and observant about the emotional health of the people they supervise.  Sometimes, small clues and a sensitively asked question can be enough to discover that someone is not feeling great – and a few minor adjustments could be enough to help them get back on track and avoid a more serious situation.

In the cut-and-thrust world of modern business - where we focus on KPI’s, EBITDA and P&L - we have a responsibility to ensure that we’re not losing sight of the experience of the actual people who create the numbers that we care so much about. For that reason, I’m very happy to support Mental Health Awareness Week, and I pledge that our organisation will take positive steps to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to reduce and manage stress in the workplace – starting with a review of the Mental Health Foundation’s report “Stress – are we coping?” and a series of actions arising from that review.”

Further information about Mental Health Awareness Week is available at https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

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